It doesn’t just happen to ‘other people’. You could be at risk for a pulmonary embolism. It’s a clot that lodges in the lungs, but originates somewhere else.
“Majority of those are blood clots that break off from the legs and travel up the body through the heart into the lungs,” says Dr. Javaad Khan, a pulmonologist and critical care specialist with Lee Memorial Health System.
Those clots in the legs are called deep vein thrombosis or DVT. They’re one of the most common sources of pulmonary embolism. Being laid up in the hospital is one risk factor.
“Because patients come in and are bed-ridden and are sick and not moving that much. The hospitals have a lot of protocols in place to prevent this,” says Dr. Khan.
Sitting in a car for hours or a long plane ride also elevates your risk. Again it goes back to lack of mobility. And again, there are steps you can take to lower your risk.
“If you’re going on a car ride it’s always a good idea to stop every couple of hours, get out, and walk around the car a couple of times and then get back in. It’s just that little mobility that keeps the blood flowing in the veins and will help lower that risk. If you’re going on a flight doing calf raises that keeps the blood flowing,” says Dr. Khan.
A prior surgery, poor circulation, peripheral vascular disease, smoking, obesity and pregnancy can predispose people. Symptoms may mimic a heart attack.
“The vast majority get the symptoms of shortness of breath, can’t breath, very winded, low blood pressure,” says Dr. Khan.These should prompt you to see a doctor immediately. Cases of pulmonary embolism are usually treated with blood thinners, severe cases may need clot busting drugs. The point is to know your risk factors and if you suspect a clot, call your doctor.